Special Forces and 'black op' operatives have had the experience of having to survive and be successful in their mission by melding into the tapestry of local culture throughout the history of warfare. Knowing your enemy well enough to hide in plain sight while covertly extracting critical intelligence is a craft unto itself and there are certainly plenty of interesting stories in history depicting men operating in the shadows. Hollywood and authors have had a great deal of success writing about this kind of war in the shadows and no one can dispute the value of the intel gleaned nor calculate the lives saved for the efforts of these well-trained, courageous operatives.
Standing Armies have worn the uniforms of their nations and faced enemies on the open battle field for as long as men have fought and for a couple of reasons. First; as a form of identification both for friend and foe. Second; as a sign of loyalty, bravery, commitment, espirit de corps and discipline. An Army massed on the battle field is a fearsome thing.
Fear is in fact an important tool in convincing your enemy of the futility of his cause. Recognizing the value of fear as a weapon, armies have employed 'psych ops' to ramp up fear in the enemy and to try to route an otherwise disciplined force. Even the Geneva Conventions mention the wearing of the uniform as a way of determining the validity of a combatant and the level of tolerance he must therefore be shown. We have been arguing for years whether the Jihadist has any reasonable expectation of protection under a document clearly written to protect legitimate soldiers sent to the battle field by their recognized, established, nations.
When wars are concluded and agreements drawn up between legitimate nations, then the diplomats arrive. Diplomats are not professional warriors and they don't bear weapons, they bear promises of reconciliation. Asking a diplomat to be a warrior is foolish for many reasons and asking the warrior; covert or otherwise, to be a diplomat is equally ridiculous. Neither has been - nor should be trained for the other's job. They're specialists and when trained and used at the right time, are successful. This is what makes Diana West's story about United States Marines being compelled by upper echelon to 'go native' so inexplicable. If the 'brain-trust' running this thing from Washington thought this would engender trust and friendship from the Afghan people or Muslims in general, they should consider a few things:
If you were to reverse the roles, bring some high-ranking member of Afghan society or military here, dress him up in some equally ridiculous sub-cultural garb and parade him through the streets of let's say, Lexington Massachusetts on April 19th or maybe New York City on September 11th; just how do you suppose we would, as a people, see them? We have seen most people from these parts of the world as savages our entire history. In most cases it has proven to be an accurate perception. Let's not lose sight of the fact that they see us as savages and demons. Dressing up a savage in cultural garb is akin to putting a sweater on a dog.
I had a really good friend who died a few years back; she was 94 and had seen much and had a lot of wisdom for a woman who had never set foot outside of Maine. One of her favorite expressions was, 'you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear'. For the purposes of this metaphor; the three senior Marines that are the focus of Diana's story are the sows ear for a society whose religion demands their deaths (actually it's a very fitting metaphor in this case). Let's not forget LtCol Max Galeai, Capt Phillip Dykeman and Cpl Marcus Preudhomme. They were compelled by higher echelon to show their trust in the Iraqi people by abandoning sound defensive strategy and removing their weapons and armor before attending a meeting with local Iraqi authorities. They also were compelled to fore go SOP of setting up a soft perimeter and holding back locals and, in this case, protestors. The result was disastrous for the Marine Corps, their families and even for the Iraqi's who died that day at the hands of a suicide bomber.
Whoever is making the decision to do these things is incredibly naïve or an idiot. These Officers and their 'Senior Enlisted Advisor', were paraded by the enemy like fools. A few of the young Afghan kids might (might) grow up a little positively altered by the experience but not our current enemy or Afghan society as a whole. The vision for this falls into the Seer category - not the Visionary or the Peacemaker. Short term it does nothing constructive; long term it will have helped further erode our credibility. Remember; a military force is something to be feared universally. It is through fear and force that we control, it is through control that you can bring in the Peacemakers, School Teachers, Construction personnel and Diplomats.
Once again we are asking men not trained in diplomacy to act for the cowards who are diplomats. The diplomats, the politicians and every other aspect of civilian governance that compelled our Warriors into harm's way don't trust the very strategy and ROE they are forcing on men like these three being paraded through the streets of some village in a third world nation like trussed-up dogs. Not only is it not dignified - on so many levels but it is not the way to treat or use the finest fighting force the world has ever known and IT IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE! Leaving fear at the gate along with Air and Indirect fire support, leaves some of the most effective weapons we have to win a war. Score another one for Haji.
Diana also brought us the story of US Admiral McRaven and Brigadier-General Kurt Fuller, deputy commander of US troops in eastern Afghanistan, going to a village where civilians were killed in a raid kicked off due to apparently faulty intel (from a local source). The American entourage with Afghan Army members in tow, brought a sheep as a 'scapegoat' to be used in conjunction with the Islamic tribal ritual of nanawate. The most troubling thing about this is that you have members of the United States Armed Forces legitimizing an Islamic practice of animal sacrifice when back a few months ago, General Petraeus found Bible Scripture addresses infused on the side/bottom of the Trijicon ACOG sights 'troubling'. The Admiral also had this to say:
“Sir, you and I are very different,” Admiral McRaven said, addressing Haji Sharabuddin directly. “You are a family man with many children and many friends. I am a soldier. I have spent most of my career overseas away from my family, but I have children as well and my heart grieves for you. But we have one thing in common. We have the same god. He is a god who shows great love and compassion.
Obviously the good Admiral has never read the Bible or the Koran's Surah #9. The God of the Bible is not the God of the Koran. If the Admiral wants to expound on Scripture and the nature of God versus the nature of Allah, he would do well to study and contrast Holy Scripture and the religion of his enemy with more thought than went into the decision to participate in the blood-letting ritual of our adversaries. Score 2 for Haji!